Paralegal jobs are some of the hottest in the market this decade. Experts have recently increased their optimistic outlook of the paralegal occupation after seeing a rebound from the economic issues that have plagued the legal industry in the recent past. Consumers are looking for value in their legal services and paralegals provide attorneys the opportunity to help their clients in a more flexible, affordable, and fair way.
For years, the Bureau of Labor and Statistics has predicted a positive outlook on employment opportunities for paralegals. Over time, more and more people started exploring this legal profession. Now, the public has begun to understand the significance of the work that paralegals provide. As a result of this realization and the effective work of thousands of paralegals, the paralegal profession has increased in status and recognition. In reality, its the paralegal work that provides the foundation for an attorney's success. Find out how below.
Making the Difference
In spite of people’s increasing awareness about this emerging legal profession, few may actually know what paralegals contribute to court hearings and proceedings. Often, people think paralegals sit at their desks all day and perform simple tasks for their employers. Even though administrative duties are generally a part of the paralegal's job description, what people may not realize is the impact a paralegal's contributions make in attaining justice.
Managing case files, calendaring, keeping the attorney organized, communicating vital information about a case, attending a mediation or hearing, or assisting the attorney in court are all responsibilities paralegals take seriously. More often than not, they are the real heroes and defenders of justice who work judiciously and dedicatedly behind the scenes.
Gathering the Evidence
Did you know that paralegals are key to facilitating the gathering of crucial court evidence? Through effective communication skills and their network of contacts, paralegals can obtain a specific piece of evidence or gather enough supporting documents to help lawyers win their case. Paralegals can be miracle workers, although their employers may get the credit for their contributions.
Lending an Ear
Haven’t you wondered who deals with all the drama in court hearings? Evidently, lawyers have no time for such things. Paralegals, however, often act as buffers or shock absorbers when handling clients’ personal concerns. Whether it’s a heartbroken housewife filing for a divorce, an emotionally traumatized teen disowning involvement in a crime, or an incapacitated individual filing a personal injury claim – it’s the paralegal who often acts as counselor and confidant, lending an ear and giving the encouragement and reassurance they need.
Challenging All the Way
As you know that often the smallest and seemingly insignificant things actually make a difference in the success of a case. The smallest detail can change a verdict and forever transform the lives of the people involved. All the filing, researching, and documenting – everything is important. And while other legal professionals may not invest their time in such things, it’s the paralegal that is responsible to perform this highly demanding and vital work. The lawyers may be able to make a strong case, but the advantage is theirs if they build it with the help of a paralegal.
Paralegal Work Changes Lives
In reality, behind every successful lawyer there is likely a paralegal. Without one, attorneys generally are not able to attain the level of success desired. The ability paralegals have to help bring all the puzzle pieces to the table is not only highly admirable, it is crucial to cases, court proceedings, and the lives of the clients.
Without paralegals, the legal industry simply wouldn’t be the same. It's simplistic but true; paralegals are today’s real heroes and defenders of justice.
The paralegal field is growing profession in high demand. If you are interested in the law, desire to help others, and want to begin or advance your career find out more by calling us at 800-446-6931 or visiting Center for Advanced Legal Studies’ at http://www.paralegal.edu.
Gail Armatys, Co-Founder & CAO
Center for Advanced Legal Studies
Do you know which area of law you want to work in after you graduate from your paralegal program? Do you know if you want to work for a small or large firm? Do you know how you are going to enter the paralegal profession with no office skills? If you answered "no" to any of these questions, you should consider participating in an externship.
What if your paralegal program does not require you to do an externship? You should consider one anyway, especially if you have never worked in an office environment. Enroll for the externship at the program where you attend. Or, if they don't offer an externship, create your own opportunity and offer to work for experience for a specified period of time.
Center for Advanced Legal Studies' (CALS) AAS Paralegal Degree Program includes an externship as a course requirement. Students who attend our Paralegal Certificate Program are not required to complete an externship. However, Paralegal Certificate students are encouraged to complete an externship and add the experience to their resume.
Our Director of Career Services manages these externships and works with students to enhance their experience. Why? it's to your advantage. Historically, those who take part in the externship likely land their first paralegal job upon completion of their experience. Find out how to prepare for a great experience in CALS' career services by going to http://www.paralegal.edu/career-services/.
With rapid changes in the economy, the nature of legal work is evolving drastically. No doubt about it, an externship can help you stay on top of change and lead to a more satisfying and beneficial work experience.
Here are four significant ways an externship can enhance your future paralegal career.
Offers Experience & Knowledge
Application of learned skills, theories, and lectures delivered in classrooms are important but differ from the day-to-day legal work environment. Students get a first-hand experience and learn to apply these theories and skills in real-life challenges throughout the externship.
Additionally, firm exposure allows students to enhance their knowledge and contribute to their specialized area. For example, doing an externship in a commercial litigation firm exposes the students to the various processes and procedures that are equally important to those taught in school. During your externship, it's important to be open to working on as many different kinds of projects as you can. You'll gain exposure, understanding, skill and experience.
A variety of skills and tasks are necessary to accomplish a job effectively and efficiently. Although learned in the classroom, these skills are revisted during a student's tenure as an extern. It exposes him/her to the important practice and implementation of skills such as oral and written communication, presentation, and time & project management. No matter how simple or difficult the task, student externs should be eager to take up the challenge and polish their skills and prove themselves to their supervisors.
Transition into a Job
Employers see externs as prospective employees. Several of our students finish their externship and continue working with the firm full-time. Externships are the primary way for employers to find new talent. Think of it as a really long interview, after which you’ve proved that you are a capable and hardworking employee. Take on as many duties as possible. Don’t consider any task beneath you, even answering phones. If you really want the job and want to prove you’re the right candidate, then demonstrate how invaluable you can be.
Externships are a great way to meet people in your field. Even if you have experience, networking never hurts. An externship allows you to meet people who might help you land a job later and establish contacts. Plus, references from people in the industry will really add weight to your application.
Don’t take the first job offered only to find out you don’t like it! With externships that range from 6 weeks to several months, you’ll discover more about yourself, your interests, and your capability than you may have dreamed.
Director of Career Services
Center for Advanced Legal Studies
||Tina works with students and graduates one-on-one to coordinate externships, prepare them for interviews, and assist with job placement. She is experienced and successful in her work and looks forward to speaking with students about their paralegal career ambitions. |
Read more about our externship program and graduates that moved into new jobs at http://www.paralegal.edu/externships/.
If you have an interest in the law and desire a professional career in the paralegal profession call us at 800-446-6931 Center for Advanced Legal Studies is experienced in paralegal training and committed to helping graduates begin their legal careers.
Are you considering becoming a paralegal? The choices you make can have a big impact on the salary you earn.
According to Payscale.com the salary range for paralegals is $25,000.00 to $72,000.00 depending on practice area of the firm, education, and experience.
Starting paralegal salaries for graduates of Center for Advanced Legal Studies for the 2011-2012 reporting year ranged from $34,000.00 - $70,000.00. Of course, earnings vary depending on experience, employer, job location, etc.
To help you secure the job and earn the paralegal salary you desire, learn three important steps you can take to maximize your salary potential as you move toward beginning your paralegal career.
1. Complete A Thorough Paralegal Program
On-the-job training may have been sufficient for paralegals in the past but due to increased competition for paralegal jobs, an AAS Paralegal Degree or a Paralegal Certificate for College Graduates is becoming necessary to secure the positions.
Professional paralegal associations warn, when choosing a paralegal program, avoid short-term paralegal programs lasting just a few weeks. These programs cannot provide the thorough legal education needed to succeed as a paralegal and are frowned upon by some employers. Donʼt be tempted to take this shortcut; it may actually hinder your career growth and salary prospects in the long run.
Entering an established, comprehensive paralegal studies program makes a crucial difference in your employment opportunities, salary, preparedness, and job satisfaction. Do your research. Not all paralegal certificate or paralegal degree programs are the same. Make sure you compare apples to apples: course content, length of program, career services, and most importantly, graduate success.
2. First, Get Understanding & Gain Skills. Later, Consider a Specialty.
Paralegals may enhance their salary by specializing in a certain area of law. But a comprehensive understanding of the law must come first. Some common legal specializations include corporate law, real estate, family law, bankruptcy, litigation and appeals, and intellectual property.
Center for Advanced Legal Studies provides a broad spectrum of legal topics and essential skills in its programs. Why - not all programs do? At CALS, we want our graduates prepared for a variety of paralegal job opportunities. Our programs open more doors, and create increased job opportunities.
As a student, you will become familiar with the most common areas of legal practice; not just one or two topics. Once you gain understanding, experience and/or exposure, your personal specialization interests become apparent. Then, you can take a more specialized focus. The more experience you gain as you work in your specialty, the more valuable you will be to employers looking for your particular legal expertise.
3. Look for ways to Gain Experience
In most professions, the more experience you have, the higher your salary. Why? Simply put, because you've added expertise to your resume which ads value to your services.
As a student at CALS, you can gain experience through the paralegal externship program prior to graduation. Perhaps this externship opportunity combined with the passion and experience of our faculty is what gives the salary advantage to graduates.
This also brings up the question, ‘How do I gain experience if no one will hire me because I don’t already have experience?' Sound familiar?
Request more information about how Center for Advanced Legal Studies can help you create a new future as a paralegal. Find details about our paralegal programs, faculty, staff, and curriculum today at www.paralegal.edu, or calling 800-446-6931.
You have a dream of having a legal career. You want to impact lives, help people, and make an important difference. You want to begin as a paralegal but just can't seem to make it happen. Life keeps getting in the way.
As a life coach, co-founder and administrator at Center for Advanced Legal Studies, my question to you is this: What are your life goals? What problem will you solve by gaining your paralegal education? What major concerns do you have that may be keeping your from living your dream? What do you see as your next step?
A lot of questions, I know. But, if you are serious about living the dream rather than dreaming the dream then they are all questions that need to be answered.
I've taken a moment to share below some of the responses our students have provided to these same questions. Maybe you will see yourself in their answers.
What Are Your Life Goals?
Life goals are usually viewed as something big and imortant to be accomplished.
They are generally long-term goals. Life goals are bigger than what you can accomplish in one day yet, what you decide to do today and each day, moves you closer to or farther away from your life goals. Here are a few of our students' life goals.
If you have an interest in a legal career, I'm sure you see yourself in some, most, or all of these answers. As you can see, some of our paralegal students' responses are more specific than others. The less vague your goals are, the easier it is to define how you can accomplish them.
What Problem Will You Solve By Gaining Your Paralegal Education?
Most of us face a variety of problems, or as I prefer to call them, hurdles, in our lives. At any one time you may have one or more hurdles to overcome. In response, we can do one of two things:
A big fat ...N O T H I N G... or,
Create a plan to overcome.
Here are some of the problems our students are solving by attending our paralegal program.
You may have other issues in your life that gaining a paralegal education will help you resolve. But like our students, you can't begin jumping these hurdles until you are bold enough to make a decision to move forward. Which leads me to this....
What major concerns do you have that may be keeping you from living your dream?
Making any decision, big or small, can cause varying levels of concern and/or fear. Make no mistake about it, beginning anything new - especially something like a college education - can cause a bit of anxiety and, at the very least, gives us the opportunity to make excuses and procrastinate. But you have to ask yourself this, what are you waiting for?
Generally, there is no perfect time to begin new projects. What it takes to resolve anxiety is good research, a little moxy, some preparation, and dedication to your life goals. Once you begin moving forward and asking questions, you will begin to see that most of your concerns can be easily resolved.
Some of the concerns our students had before entering our paralegal programs include the following:
finding employment upon graduation
paying for school
personal performance in class
transitioning back into school
making the right choice
no concerns - beginning a new adventure.
While reading this list you probably began thinking , "These are exactly the same thoughts I've been having."
So how did they get from 'stuck' to 'student'? They resolved their concerns by talking with our admissions advisors, financial aid director, and other dedicated staff members. They did their research about paralegal education, various programs, and the success of graduates. As they say, information is power. Gain information and you can overcome your hurdles in the same way.
On other point. It could be that you aren't yet as carefree as the people who look at beginning a paralegal program like beginning a new adventure. However, I encourage you to look at big decisions, such as your education, in this light.
How? First, let's define the word 'adventure'. I think an adventure is doing something out of the ordinary that has a bit of mystery to it. If you are on an adventure, you prepare and plan as best you can with all the information you've been given. In an adventure, you look forward to what you will learn and what you will gain. You go 'all in' and let your desire to complete the mission motivate you. You begin by taking steps foward.
What Do You See As Your Next Step?
In all forms of good coaching; life, business, diet, exercise - to name a few, guiding a person by asking good questions is foundational. So, let me end with what I would call a good question. (Long, but good.)
If your life goals include a legal career, if a quality paralegal education will help you solve current problems in your life and live your life goal, if your fears of making a decision can be resolved by asking questions and gaining information what is your next step to living your dream?
Please contact us today to find out more about our students, graduates, paralegal salary, and our on-campus and online paralegal programs. We can help you live your dream. 800-446-6931 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Gail Armatys, Co-Founder & CAO
Center for Advanced Legal Studies
If you are a career changer, take a look into the paralegal profession. This career creates opportunity to utilize existing interests, talents, and expertise in combination with legal skill and knowledge. If you are interested in the law, take a look at one student's story and her decision to gain her paralegal education and begin a new career.
Looking at Change as an Opportunity
In her second career, Kathleen Mudge was happily employed at a bank in New York State. She was working in the back room - overseeing loan payments, account maintenance and rule compliance. There was something new to learn every day and she had enjoyed the work for over 13 years. She would have contentedly stayed there until retirement but a series of events changed her world entirely and set her on the path to her third career.
The bank was bought out and her position was retrenched. She had two almost-grown daughters, one just about to graduate college, the other set to graduate high school. When the eldest announced that she wanted to earn a master's degree at the University of Houston at Clear Lake, Kathleen moved the whole family south. At first, she cast about for another banking job, but then she got the letter. It informed her that she might be eligible for the Veteran's Retraining Assistance Program.
Previous Experience Beneficial
In her first career, Kathleen had been in the air force, working in intelligence and stationed all over the United States and the world. Her last posting was as an analyst in Nebraska. When her marriage status changed, she took the opportunity to apply for an early out and left the job and the state. She wound up near family in upstate New York at the bank where her sister-in-law worked.
But now, her military experience was going to help pave the way to yet another career. Investigating the opportunity further, Kathleen uncovered a list of jobs that the government had designated as being in high demand. Near the top of the list was one that appealed: paralegal.
Paralegals are in Demand
Kathleen liked the idea of being a paralegal; she had already had lots of experience with the law since much of her previous job had entailed analyzing current and new regulations and ensuring that the bank was complying with them. Plus she likes to think and learn new things; a paralegal career would guarantee that.
She investigated schools and chose the Center for Advanced Legal Studies because she could attend class in-person during the day. It wasn't that online learning, which the Center also offers, was intimidating, but Kathleen, who uses a computer when she has to, would much rather be in the classroom. And her experience at CALS has been rewarding. Various instructors have different ways of teaching, and Kathleen says that's okay:
"It allows for students to experience a range of styles that they'll come across in the real world," she says. The classes have been interesting and challenging, but Kathleen is a dedicated student. She is competing to match her daughter's 3.7 GPA.
Paralegal Training and Great Expectations
Kathleen will graduate soon and will be highly employable. With her financial expertise and paralegal training, she hopes to work in a corporate environment, either oil and gas or banking. Will she stay in Houston? Probably not; she's a small-town girl and she's used to moving. She'll see her daughters settled and then decide. But wherever she lands, she will have options. She is a ready learner and a hard worker. And she'll have the skills to get in the door. She's looking forward to her third career and expects it will be her last.
For more information about our paralegal certificat or degree program contact us at email@example.com or call us at 800-446-6931.
Blogger, Joy Oden teaches English Comprehension at Center for Advanced Legal Studies in both the traditional and online classroom. She writes about her students because she is continually amazed at their desire to change their lives, their ability to overcome difficult circumstances, and their determination to help others.
The paralegal profession has been and is currently one of the fastest growing professions in the United States. Job satisfaction is high but rewarding as the career may be, the challenge often lies in getting started. There are a lot of questions to ask and have answered. One thing you must consider is whether or not you will take your classes in an online paralegal program or in the traditional classroom.
According to the study by the Slaon Consortium group, “Going the Distance: Online Education in the United States, 2011” more than 6.1 million students in the United States took at least one online class during the fall semester of 2010. This is a significant number compared to previous years, and the statistics only keep growing for all professions.
Online paralegal programs are a part of this growth. In a field where the job market is competetive and interest in such a professional career means you need the best education possible, how do you decide if you should attend a traditional classroom or online paralegal courses?
The following is a quick breakdown of what you can expect in terms of alternatives for gaining your paralegal skills. You should assess both classroom options to determine the best fit for you, your situation, learning style, location, and schedule.
Students who wish to take courses in a traditional setting generally do so because they like sitting in a physical classroom and find learning easier when they are placed in a group of like-learners. These students desire the traditional face-to-face element of interaction with the instructor. This type of classroom is known to most students and it is comfortable.
Being around others can often help keep the traditional student focused and motivated. And if time and transportation are available, the on-the-ground classroom can help meet this need. As history proves, the on-campus learning environment can be a great method of delivering paralegal courses.
At Center for Advanced Legal Studies (CALS), students have found success by completing their paralegal certificate program or AAS Paralegal Degree program on campus for over 26 years. As new methods of teaching continue to enhance traditional instruction, the brick and mortar classroom still has its place and produces graduates that excel in the paralegal profession.
Online Interactive Instruction
Although the traditional classroom has benefits for some, online classes offer students certain perks. Among them is the ability to save time and allow for significant flexibility throughout the work week.
Online classes may be the best method of learning for you if you are organized and self-motivated. Or, if you have other things to attend to during the daytime and cannot attend traditional classes the online classroom may accommodate your schedule.
The obvious and huge advantage to this method of instruction is that you can participate in class regardless of location. Center for Advanced Legal Studies provides virtual online classes to students across the country using the latest technologies. This ensures you get a high quality, online education that incorporates the values of the traditional classroom - wherever you are.
Online Classes - Are They Inferior?
Sometimes the general concensus is that online classes are inferior to the traditional classroom. This may be true at some institutions. However, online classes should not be considered second to traditional classes at Center for Advanced Legal Studies.
Although some online paralegal classes include the basics such as emailing information back and forth, use of discussion threads, and some type of online platform to support grades, tests, and quizes, CALS online paralegal programs go much further to provide the face-to-face interaction that so many people desire in their education. This interactive instruction mimics the opportunity for visual discussions, questions, and chances for clarification. It closely resembles the traditional and familiar form teaching.
Often, students have had previous unsuccessful experiences with online courses. Probably because of the low level of interaction. CALS' online paralegal programs are centered around student-to-faculty interaction and student-to-student interaction. It is a top-tier method of learning at a distance.
Traditional courses may be for you if you:
prefer a more familiar method of instruction
are motivated by learning in physical surroundings with like-learners
have time available to commute
have reliable transportation
Online paralegal programs may be for you if you:
Whether you live in the Houston area or across the nation and beyond the US borders, you can select the method of learning that best suits you to obtain a superior education from CALS, a college that specializes in paralegal education. Be assured, selecting the right form of classroom instruction for you is very important to your success.
Graduates from traditional or online paralegal programs at Center for Advanced Legal Studies have the edge. For more information about these programs, please learn more about traditional classroom and online classroom or by contacting us at 800-446-6931 for assistance.
Gail Armatys, Co-Founder & CAO
Center for Advanced Legal Studies
*Going the Distance: Online Education in the United States, 2011 [http://sloanconsortium.org/publications/survey/going_distance_2011]
Education doesn’t stop after obtaining a job. Most career paths require and benefit from continuing education. The paralegal profession is one of these careers.
As a paralegal, you still need to keep learning. With different cases leading to new laws and updated information every day, you need to keep up. Attending continuing education workshops and seminars will help you stay on top of these issues and assist your attorney in completing work in a better way.
Not only are seminars related to legal topics important but continuing education subjects related to professional conduct and presentation are more than important to advancing any paralegal career. In short, as a paralegal, such matters are crucial to your success and growth.
Continuing Professional Development Throughout Your Career
Whether you’re currently working as a paralegal, have been out of practice for a while, or even if you are in the midst of your paralegal education, you should attend continuing education courses to keep moving forward.
In fact, your current or future employer might require you to attend continuing education seminars. Or, if you are a certified paralegal, you will be required to maintain a certain number of CLE credits The number of required credits may vary by state and paralegal association.
For example, National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA) offers two paralegal certification credentials. The PACE Certification exam is designed to be used as a "standard to guage the competency level of experienced paralegals." This exam requires 12 Hours of Continuing Legal Education each year to maintain certification. The CORE Certification is for entry-level paralegals and requires 8 Hours of Continuing Legal Education to maintain certification.
No matter where you are in your paralegal career, you should be self-motivated to continue to learn. Find topics that you have an interest in, that are specific to your area of practice, that will enhance an important skill, or that will help you develop your professional attributes.
Communication Workshops Boost Paralegal Skills
Center for Advanced Legal Studies offers continuing education in a variety of important and general areas including workshops that enhance your presentation and communication skills. (paralegal.eventbrite.com) Topics such as communication and presentation seem pretty basic, but they are subjects that employers have indicated in our surveys to be as important or more important to them as a paralegal's legal knowledge and understanding.
Often, excellent communication and presentation skills help paralegals optimize their standing in a firm or with their employer and with clients. As a paralegal, becoming more confident in these areas will highten an employer's awareness of your abilities and enhance the impact you will have on the growth of the firm.
Combine your initiative to learn and grow with legal knowledge and professional communication skills/attitude and your value increases immediately. That's why it's never too early to begin learning; during your education and as your career matures.
The Job Search and Continuing Education
Participating in continuing education sessions is also helpful when looking for a new paralegal job. This shows enthusiasm for the paralegal field, interest in growth, and initiative. How?
Changes in the Law
New bills and statutes are passed every day, changing established laws. One of the best ways legal professionals can stay updated is by taking courses and staying on top of these changes. In order to assist lawyers, it is your job to give correct and relevant information. You may even be able to inform your attorney about the status of a new law before he/she is aware of it. Impressive!
As a paralegal, you have an important set of privileges and responsibilities. To progress in your career, you need additional information. This will give you an edge over others. Specific knowledge and understanding might also be required before you’re permitted to work on some cases and/or with certain firms or corporations.
Paralegals who are dedicated to obtaining continuing education find that increased knowledge is directly related to growth and opportunity. The more understanding gained, the greater your confidence and contribution. New skills and insight might be the difference between a favorable and unfavorable verdict for your client, an opportunity for promotion, or the chance for new employment. Armed with a desire to continually learn and improve, and a record indicating involvement in continuing education, the paralegal competing for a certain opportunity will generally win the contest.
Lastly, lawyers are required to complete continuing education credit every year. Good and successful employers value education and will normally encourage and often require continuing education of their paralegals. Your participation in gaining knowledge through continuing education will not only benefit your employer, but it can increase your job satisfaction and spur the growth of your career.
Center for Advanced Legal Studies offers continuing education workshops and seminars find out more by going to http://paralegal.eventbrite.com. For more information on our paralegal programs and to receive a free brochure go to http://www.paralegal.edu/
Gail Armatys, Co-Founder & CAO
Center for Advanced Legal Studies
In The Art of First Impressions, Part 1 of 2, we left off on how significant Comfort is in making a great first impression, both in the paralegal field and in every area of life. Let’s take a look at Comfort’s counterpart, Confidence.
This goes hand-in-hand with comfort. Being comfortable in your own skin means you are confident in who you are, and being confident in who you are means you will come across as comfortable with yourself. And confidence is so much more attractive when coupled with humility. BUT don’t go assuming you know what confidence is and that you are confident. There is a fine line to walk here, folks. True humility does not mean timidity or down-playing yourself. And true confidence does not mean carrying yourself like you are God’s gift to mankind. Take a moment to honestly self-assess your level of confidence AND how it comes across to others.
Shine by Comparison
Let me give you an example from theatre, from the many auditions I have watched. Picture this:
Person A walks to center stage hurriedly with her head slightly down, looks out at the directors and introduces herself somewhat diffidently, gives an awesome audition, says thank you, and quickly walks back offstage.
Person B walks onstage with her head tipped back, introduces herself with a tone so confident she might as well be saying "you can just end the auditions and hire me right now," does an awesome audition, then says "thank you" in a tone where she might as well have said "you’re welcome" and saunters off the stage.
Person C walks onstage with a normal and self-assured step, keeping her head up and making eye contact and smiling at the directors, stops on her mark, introduces herself like a real and pleasant person, does an awesome audition, makes eye-contact again with the directors saying a genuine "thank you" and walks offstage the same way they walked onstage.
The Person A probably thought she was being humble, but it came across as under-confidence. Person B probably thought she was simply showing confidence, but it came across as over-confidence. The true confidence, someone comfortable with themselves and not forcing confidence or humility, was portrayed by Person C. If each person gave an equally awesome audition, who would you be drawn to? If these same three people were in an interview for a paralegal position, who would you hire?
Comfort + Confidence = ?
I almost wrote a third C word: Connect. But I realized that would be redundant. When you meet and talk with someone who is extremely comfortable in their own skin, who is genuine and has a humble confidence, you automatically connect with them. It’s like that song, "When you’re smiling, the whole world smiles with you." When you’re comfortable with yourself, you in turn set people at ease and make them feel comfortable with themselves and with you. When you can have a conversation with a stranger and engage them as a real and genuine human being, people feel connected with you. They feel that they can be real with you. People will be drawn to you and they will respect you (and in turn, they will be drawn to and respect your workplace, your law firm, and anything else you are representing).
And that is the art of first impressions.
Create a life mission.
One quick idea in conclusion. At the end of my grad school experience, one of my professors made us each come up with and write down our life mission. It was such a difficult assignment. It’s not your goals for your career, not your personal ambitions.
But a life mission is deeper than that, it overarches both of those things and states the kind of person you want to be and the kind of impact you want to make on the world—the "why" behind everything you stand for and do. It takes a lot of thought to come up with one. Here’s mine, for an example: "To both strive for and infuse others with an insatiable pursuit of truth, an unashamed desire to live fully and authentically, and a love of all that is good and beautiful."
I have that written down on a piece of paper in my wallet, it’s with me wherever I go. And I assure you, the best auditions, interviews, and first impressions I’ve ever done/had/made, were the ones when I took a moment beforehand and read my life mission back to myself.
True confidence and comfort with yourself can be difficult to grasp in some settings, especially if the stakes are high, but if you take a moment to remember who you are, what you believe in, and why you do what you do, that confidence and comfort will be there. You won’t have to fake it or force it or put it on.
I encourage you to take some time to write your own life mission and remind yourself of it from time to time, especially as you’re going to interviews for paralegal positions or making important decisions to advance your legal career.
I promise you won’t regret it. Happy great first impression-making!
Katie Fridsma, is the Administrative Assistant (Director of First Impressions) at Center for Advanced Legal Studies. Please join us and share additional tips on making a great first impression below. Contact us at 800-446-6931 to request more information and help answer questions you may have about the paralegal profession and our paralegal certificate or paralegal degree programs and seminars.
(This is Part 1 of a 2 Part Series)
When they say first impressions are everything, well… They’re right. I’m not talking about in your personal life, where that person who rubbed you the wrong way when you first met later became one of your closest friends. But in the professional world, where you’re subconsciously judged by the firmness of your handshake or the warmth of your “good morning,” a first impression can make a world of difference.
Employers - including employers of paralegals - often make decisions about who to hire based on their first impression of the applicant. Some businesses are even beginning to re-title their receptionist or front desk position to “Director of First Impressions,” recognizing the importance of these positions in setting the tone for their entire company.
Be a Professional First Impression-Maker In addition to being one of these aforementioned “Director of First Impressions,” at CENTER FOR ADVANCED LEGAL STUDIES (though that is not my official title), I am also a professional actor. If there is any field that realizes the significance of first impressions and where careers and employment depend sometimes entirely on that first impression, it’s theatre.
Both in my studies to earn my MFA in Acting and my professional work since then, I’ve learned that an actor’s real job is a professional auditioner. From the second you walk into an audition, you are being sized up and assessed. Most directors know whether or not they might cast you in a matter of seconds, before you even begin your audition.
And in most casting calls, you have 60-90 seconds to do your audition. 60-90 seconds to somehow stand out among the dozens or hundreds of people auditioning that day. From my experience in both the legal office/administrative setting and the acting/auditioning arena, it would be fair to say I’m a professional first impression-maker.
First Impressions in the Paralegal Field First impressions are no less important in the legal arena, specifically for paralegals. Your career path in law could be drastically different depending on the kind of first impression you make. Whether it’s interviewing with attorneys for a coveted job or being the first person to meet with a new client, paralegals also need to be professional first impression-makers. You’re first greeting or handshake with a client sets the tone and expectation for all of their dealings with your firm.
Your Chance to Be the Exception! Here’s the thing about making good, no, great first impressions: it’s not common.
I’m shocked by how many very pleasant and competent individuals still do not make great impressions at first. Self-awareness is a tricky thing, and if you want to improve your first impression skills, you may need to ask others what their first impression of you was. Don’t shy away from doing some unflinching self-analysis here or asking for insights from others. Rest assured, if you can make a great first impression, you will stand out.
Tips on Making a Great First Impression I want to share a few tips on making great first impressions. I am not going to present to you those typical and common-sense bullet-points so often thrown around in these types of conversations. Yes, dress professionally and neatly. Yes, give a firm (NOT limp, NOT death-grip) handshake. Yes, remember names, smile, and make eye contact. Of course, of course, of course.
These things are extremely important, both in the paralegal field and any area of life, and should be second-nature to you. Have a few trusted friends or colleagues rate how well you do these things if you’re not sure.
But, I want to talk to you about those more enigmatic aspects of a first impression, two subtle factors that change a good first impression to a great first impression: Comfort and Confidence. We’ll look at Comfort first and talk about Confidence next time (part two).
Comfort We hear “be yourself” so often. But do we really do it?
Have you ever caught yourself having a drastically different work persona from your rest-of-life persona? I know I have. I think sometimes we “put on” a professional version of our self instead of simply being who we are in a professional setting. Or we try to be who we think our potential employer (or casting director!) wants us to be.
The thing is, folks, people see through it. It comes across as fake. I can’t stress the importance of being comfortable in your own skin. I once had a position where I felt that I couldn’t meet my employers’ expectations and I was walking on eggshells around them. Instead of taking a deep breath and continuing to be real around them, I noticed that I was developing a reserved and deferential “work persona,” scared to make a wrong move; and I’m sure that this unnatural and uncomfortable work persona in turn affected my interactions with their clients.
Since then, I have consciously tried to bring more consistency to who I am at work and who I am everywhere else, trying to be the same person to everyone I come in contact with during the day. I still sometimes cringe when I answer the phone and hear a tad of a “phone voice” in my voice. It’s an ongoing process. But think how rare and refreshing it is when you talk to someone who seems so comfortable with themselves, so real and genuine. Don’t you want to be that person?
This article will be continued in “Paralegals and the Art of First Impressions, Part 2 of 2.” Be sure to check back to read about how true confidence is portrayed in a first impression. It can change your entire paralegal career!
Katie Fridsma, is the Administrative Assistant (Director of First Impressions) at Center for Advanced Legal Studies. Please join us and share additional tips on making a great first impression below. Contact us at 800-446-6931 to request more information and help answer questions you may have about the paralegal profession and our paralegal programs and seminars.
Lawyers often hug the limelight in the courtroom. All eyes seem to fall on the attorney offering arguments, presenting evidence, and questioning witnesses. Despite being the focus in every trial, lawyers cannot be as effective as they need to be without paralegals to support them.
Good paralegals are the backbone of a law practice. They help in every way they can to ensure the success of a case. They're more than just assistants to lawyers—paralegals actually play a major role in the preparation and completion of legal proceedings. Here are four of the main responsibilities of these legal professionals.
1. Gathering Information
Any kind of information is valuable to a lawsuit. Letting relevant matters slip past can make or break a case during trial. This is why paralegals are always on hand to help lawyers collect information. These legal professionals are often ready to obtain copies of all investigation files, including police reports, coroner's findings, or any piece of information relevant to the case. It's also their responsibility to store all information in computer databases for easier organization and retrieval.
2. Preparing Legal Documents
Preparing and organizing documents are some of the tasks legal professionals shouldn't underestimate, especially during complex cases. Accessing important documents at a moment's notice can make a big difference in the course of a lawsuit, which is why paralegals apply extra effort in organizing paperwork. They help draft legal documents, conduct research, or arrange requests before a case. Paralegals also often assist in writing reports and preparing presentations for clients.
3. Meeting and Interviewing Clients
Paralegals do not handle cases themselves, but they work alongside lawyers and clients. They gather testimonies from all concerned parties to help lawyers prepare for arguments. Some paralegals meet with and interview witnesses when the lawyer is unavailable.
4. Arranging Schedules
Time is of the essence when it comes to lawsuits, especially if the case is subject to a statute of limitations. Paralegals arrange schedules to help lawyers and clients meet case deadlines. They maintain organized calendar systems for setting and saving important meetings and dates, especially for filing motions or submitting court documents. Though they don't always sit with clients during meetings or court trials, they keep themselves updated with everything that's going on with the case.
Paralegals take on these - and more - responsibilities depending on their specialization. Their work is not just limited to courts, but also extends to the many other legal practice areas of law firms, corporations, and other types of organizations.
If you're interested in finding out more about paralegals and their responsibilities, contact Center for Advanced Legal Studies at 800-446-6931. CALS is a great resource and will glad be to answer any questions you may have about how to get started in this profession.